Completed K’nat Fighter

From the model shop this week comes the completed K’nat fighter in 1/32 scale. The finishing touches were done with artist’s pastels in white, gray and black. I’m pretty happy with how this one turned out and it will be featured on the K’nat Trap book cover early next year. I’ll try and postup the build wrap up this weekend.

Corvette Draft One Complete

Yesterday morning the house was quiet with everyone asleep, so I wrote the final two scenes in my latest novella, Corvette. It feels good to have that behind me. I was thinking it might stretch out to be a novel, but at under 50K words and about 215 pages, its a decent sized novella. Corvette is my attempt to write to a market and create a prequel to the Star Saga. The structure and tropes that I used are similar to what is selling right now in Military SF. I hope to have it out in ebook form early next year.

Right now my writing sprints are focused on the second draft of K’nat Trap. This is the novella that I wrote earlier in the year and its set a few years after Starstrikers, Book 4 of the Star Saga. Looking forward to making the changes my beta readers have suggested and tightening up the second draft. With any luck, it will be out before Corvette, sometime next year.

In other news, I’ve nearly completed the K’nat fighter model for use on the novella’s cover. Here are some shots of the model on my bench.

This is a 3rd Generation Votainion starfighter and appears in Starstrikers and K’nat Trap. It has a standard engine and two NexGen space/time drives that let it move through space and time for short duration.

It’s quite the challenge to paint and weather an all black fighter. The canopy in these shots is just primer gray. Eventually it will be painted.

GCU Griffin

This weekend it was cool outside so I busted out the blue screen and a finished model and took some pictures of it. That of course led to some Gimp action with some pretty background images. Since my brother was visiting, he got a chance to watch me photograph the model and then helped me tweak the photos in Gimp. The results are below for your viewing pleasure.

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Shadow Fighter Showdown

My latest scratch built starfighter model is the K’nat fighter or as they call it in STARSTRIKERS – the Shadow fighter. While I’m building my model from plastic and Renshape, my son is building his model in Blender. He’s much faster than I am. It’s going to be a race to see who’s fighter will make it to the cover of K’nat Trap, my next novella.

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At this point, he’s winning.

Modeling Update

Just finished the primer coat on the GCU Griffin model this weekend. I still have some bits and pieces that need to be added, so will have to coat again next weekend. But you can start to see the general shape and fit of the ship now. I’ll admit that the design is a bit unconventional, but I still think it looks awesome. I originally designed this one back when I was a kid. Even built it in cardboard in almost the same scale. If you read Starstrikers, you’ll learn all about this important starship.

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This new acrylic primer I’m using is much darker and bluer than the auto car body primer I was using. But it doesn’t stink near as bad.

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The other side of the model for reference.

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I used the whole bottle on the model, so will have to order a case of it or something. I also need to find some gloss coat and dull coat for decals. Probably use whatever I can find at Home Depot.

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This is where I hid the slider switch for the internal lights. Sometimes you have to be sneaky. I didn’t plan this nice over hang, but it turned out to be the perfect spot to hide the switch. It’s starting to get warmer out in the garage studio, so eventually I’ll have to move operations inside or suspend the modeling until fall. I’ll be building smaller stuff until it cools off again. 

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Building The Renoke, Part 9

The final stage of building a model is always the weathering. Star Wars pioneered the “Used Car” look of starships back in the seventies and since then it’s become standard for movie models. Since this model could be used for film but is primarily used for cover art, it will be properly weathered. Running around in space is probably not going to do that much to a starship, but the Renoke has visited many different planets with varied environments and has been through all kinds of crazy situations in which it’s been chased and shot at and ran into things. So the surface of the model will need to reflect that history.

When you weather a model you are telling a story about the history of the vehicle. Remember that time when I hit that thing or flew through that messy stuff? Yeah, I can point to my ship as proof of that. See that smear right there? That’s when my oil inducer blew and leaked all down the side. I had to fix it and move on, no time to clean it up.

So with that in mind, I used a number of techniques to build the history of this freighter. I started with an oil based wash consisting of Burnt Sepia and Black mixed with thinner. I applied in a gloppy manner with a stiff brush and then wiped it away, leaving it in the cracks and crannies of the model. This gives the surface detail a more three dimensional appearance and it did something interesting to the surface paint. It gave it a brown tint that I probably could not have replicated with paint alone.

The original Renoke model was made from card board and had lots of colored panels all over it. In order to weather it, I lit a candle and used the black smoke from just past the flame to carbon score the model. I then sanded the model with fine grit sand paper. The resulting finish was unique to say the least. Looking at the image below of that original model you can see that the overall color is an off white with a slight tan tint. That’s what I was trying to replicate with the new model, at least as far as I could.

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After completing the oil wash I was left with a similar tone on the new model. So I began to color some of the panels to add interest and history to them. I used earth tones as much as possible, so dark reds, dark greens and grays. Below is the forward bottom of the Renoke.

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Below is the stern bottom. I added lots of oil leaks and stains here to simulate the engine compartment of an old car. After the paint for the panels dried, I brushed them with sand paper to knock off the paint on the edges and to give the surface added texture.

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For some flat areas of the models I sanded a bit more to give it a worn smooth look and to try and bring out some of the off white base color.

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The final stage of weathering is hitting the model with a hobby grinder. This can be very effective at replicating impacts but you have to be careful with it. If you over do it, you can easily ruin the model. I used a rounded grinder head and let it bounce off the model while spinning to get multiple dings and scratches. You have to come at it from many directions to add the randomness required. Again, a little bit of this goes a long way. The grinder will take off the surface color, the gray primer and get right down to the original white of the plastic. Which is okay for this model. It also reminds me of some of the damage to the Falcon from Star Wars.

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The overall effect of all this weathering makes the model more interesting to the eye and more realistic at the same time.

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The final area that needed weathering was the bridge. Again, about the only thing I needed here was leaking machinery and general wear and tear. I maybe overdid it a bit but this is an old ship.

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And that is all she wrote. The model is complete. The bridge windows were added late in the game using tinted clear plastic sheeting. This model will be featured on the cover of XiniX, Book 5 of the Star Saga and probably used for short story covers and elsewhere as needed. The captain of this ship is a character named Joules Rouse and I’ve written many short stories about him over the years. You can read one over at SpaceWesterns.com

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Cover Reveal – The Rising

This past weekend the cover for my next released novel, The Rising has been finalized. I thought I’d share with you some of the final little tweaks we did to it. Big thanks to my brother Byron McConnell for once again pulling all the elements together in Photoshop and making them shine!

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The above version had five important design changes. The First was the yellow flame out the back of the top fighter. The second was the new explosion. The third was the canopy glass on the bottom fighter, and the fourth change was the motion blur added to the green fighter and the bottom fighter. The fifth design change was to punch up the brightness of the stars.

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In the above version we changed the color of the top fighter’s exhaust back to blue, realizing that the yellow didn’t fit our stated blue and orange color guide and it conflicted with the yellow of the green fighter’s leading edge. The two lower models didn’t have motion blur and looked static to me. Also the canopy glass was not yet applied to the bottom fighter. The explosion in this version was not as dynamic as the first one either. The stars are not as bright in this version and it was determined that when you looked at the cover in smaller sizes, the stars faded away entirely. 

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For the final version of the cover we merged the best of the above versions into a single version. So now you have the blue flame of the top fighter, the more dynamic explosion and the motion blur of the middle and bottom fighters. The canopy glass on the bottom fighter is reflecting the explosion which makes it more realistic.

Here’s a quick look back at how the cover evolved over time from my original sketch.

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My original sketch was inspired by model airplane box cover art from WWII which usually depicted aircraft dog fighting in dramatic fashion. I still had the series banner at the top the same way it appeared on the older coin covers.

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Above we see a finished version of the initial sketch. We decided that the title should be on one line and that we didn’t need to keep the series banner. 

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So I did this format change to make the textual parts more clean. All of the books in the Star Saga would now conform to this template for the cover title, saga title and author name.

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I added a third fighter in the foreground to help add interest and show the fighter who shot down the green fighter. Now the battle depicts the good guys winning the engagement. The bottom fighter was eventually swapped out for a better model of the Vicker’s Victory fighter. Actually, both Alliance fighters would eventually be the same newly created plastic version with more details.

You can see what was involved with building the two models used on this cover in the Model Builds section of this blog.

Vickers Victory Fighter

Kiv-3 Starfighter Large

Writing Update

I’ve completed the first draft of K’nat Trap a novella that follows Starstrikers, Book 4 of the Star Trilogy. This was a fun book to get me back in touch with several Special Forces characters from my very first Space Opera novel – Starstrikers. It stars Kiloe and Tamia from that first novel and it sets up events that will happen in my next WIP, Book 5 of the Star Saga – XiniX. I’m now moving rapidly into finalizing the outline for that book. XiniX will be a full length novel and it will take us to places the reader might have never thought possible. Should be a blast to write, once I get going on it.

I’ve been updating my Pinterest boards for the Star Saga novels this week. You’ll find boards for K’nat Trap and even XiniX. Pinterest is a great site to let fans know the visual inspirations that helped you write your novels. We all have images that we collect while writing our novels and sometimes it’s fun for readers to see what inspired us. If you don’t already use Pinterest you might look into it. Here are the boards for K’nat Trap and XiniX. There are also boards for The Blood Empress and some characters from the Starforgers Trilogy.

Below is a screenshot of the first two paragraphs from K’nat Trap. After I complete the first draft of a book I export it from Plume Creator to LibreOffice for editing. The manuscript stays in an Open Document standard for all edits up until the proof edits. So for the next two drafts I’m working in LibreOffice. Once the final edits are completed, I import it into epub format. That’s where all my final proofing is done. The final product resides in epub until it’s used again to make the paperbacks.

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The reason I use LibreOffice is because that program has proper editing features like comments. Sometimes I will take the second draft into GoogleDocs to let Beta Readers read it and comment on it. But the original stays in LibreOffice until it’s finished.

XiniX is now being outlined and for that I usually use Plume Creator, but this book is proving to be unwieldy for me. I have two outlines in plain text form and merging them into one master outline has been challenging. So I’ve exported the Plume Creator outline to a spreadsheet and uploaded it to GoogleDocs. This lets me access it anywhere. No idea how I’m going to get it back into Plume. Most likely I’ll be cutting and pasting it back in from the GoogleDocs.

I would show a screenshot of the XiniX outline, but it gives too much away. Maybe later I can crop it or something so it’s not so revealing.

I usually let a first draft sit for a month before coming back to it for the second draft. This is to clear my buffers and come at the story clean. In that time away from it, I’ll be working on the outline for the next book. In other book related news, I’m about to get the edits for The Rising. The cover for The Rising is just about complete. As soon as my proofing finishes for that book, it will become available on Amazon. Look for it in March. The next big release is going to be Book 3, Counterattack. That could come some time in April.

 

 

GCU Griffin Build, Part 3

First up is boxing in the scanner body ends. This area will have lots of greeblies and strips of styrene when finished. It will be recessed inside the main body. It was important that I get the shape straight and level so the rest of the model didn’t look warped. I like to listen to podcasts about writing while I work. Sometimes I listen to everything I have and move on to music. Long hours in the garage sniffing glue and cutting plastic go quicker with great tunes.
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Once the sides were done, I had to secure them to the top and bottom pieces. Now you can start to see the shape I’m going for with this scanner pod body.
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Got a bit carried away with the bottom of the head detailing and decided to attach it to the head. Big mistake. While wrestling with the model later on, I smacked it down and knocked off the detailing. Lesson learned. Do all your manhandling before you put on the details.
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Top of the head gets some shape. I made the top of the head removable so I could access the fiber optics.
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Started detailing early again. What is wrong with me?
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Regarding using gray styrene. Don’t. Just don’t use it. Testers modeling cement does not do well with it. I won’t be using it anymore. You have to sand it to get anything to stick to it.
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Dinking around with bridge details. I knew I needed an anti-starfighter gun on the top to get the greatest field of fire, but my boat kit had not come in yet so I played around with scanner details. The bridge was built with styrene sheet and strips.
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Bridge details continued. I started using thick strips like reactive armor on tanks. Looks cool anyway.
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A sense of scale. Sometimes it’s good to keep your scale in mind. Here is a 1/350 scale Japanese sailor.
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Bridge details augmented by 1/350 scale Dragon German Destroyer kit parts. I’m constantly pleased by the amount of detail that comes from Dragon model kits. From tanks to ships the details are always crisp and clean. Below are more details added and cemented into place. Including the gun on top of the bridge.
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Deck plates scored. I forgot to scribe the panel lines so had to use a dental pick after the bridge details had been added.
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Another view shows asymmetrical detailing.
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Bow of the ship. The details for the bow were mostly keys from a kid’s computer toy. I just sanded off the letters and glued them on. Lots of strip styrene used for effect.
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Top sides of the main scanner pod. The red color comes from the fact that I’m using a plastic For Sale sign for my body. Cheaper than buying it from a hobby store and just as good. Below you see the shape of the ship as it now stands. Next comes threading the fiber optics and running the wires for the lights.
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Coming next: lighting.
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Writing Bits and Pieces – Raising the Stakes

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I’m currently writing the third act of my novella, K’nat Trap. While thinking about my story on the way home from work I realized that I had failed to account for some things during my last lunchtime writing session. For one, I had my hero return from a planet and didn’t any make mention that he’s basically lived in a bog without grooming for three days. Yeah, he’d stink and he’d have a few day’s growth of beard. I need to go back and add in those little details.

The second thing I noticed was that the good guys seemed to be getting off too easy in the big second act conflict. Turns out I had them handle lots of starfighters, but not the destroyer warships that launched them. So they are not out of the woods just yet. I think the second act needs to be drawn out a bit more. I’m going to lay the hurt on for a few more chapters to increase tension. I also have a nice little reversal going when the main plan falls short.

This is what happens when you go off-outline and have to blaze a new path through the plot. This is good news for this story though, it’s coming up a bit short on word count right now. Nothing a new battle won’t fix.